Tuesday morning saw the start of the first in a series of spacewalks that will end the year outside the International Space Station.
Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada, first-time spacewalkers, began their journey outside the station at 9:14 AM. ET, and concluded at 4:25 p.m. ET and lasted for 7 hours and 11 minutes.
Cassada wore a spacesuit with red stripes for extravehicular Crew member 1. Rubio wore an unmarked spacesuit as extravehicular Crew member 2.
In front of stunning views of Earth, the astronauts assembled a bracket for mounting on the starboard side of the space station’s main truss.
The hardware was safely delivered to the space station aboard a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft on November 9.
This hardware will enable the installation of additional rollout solar arrays (called iROSAs) to boost the power supply for the space station. In June 2021, the station received its first two rollout solar arrays. Six iROSAs have been installed and will increase the power generation of the space station by more than 30% when all six are operational.
Two more spacewalks will be conducted on November 28th and December 1st. A two-astronaut crew will roll and install another pair of solar arrays after the mounting hardware has been installed. The solar arrays are scheduled to be delivered on the SpaceX Dragon commercial supply mission on November 21.
Spacewalks are an integral part of the crew’s routine to maintain and upgrade the orbital laboratory. NASA’s Tuesday spacewalk was the first since March. After Matthias Maurer, an astronaut from the European Space Agency completed his first spacewalk wearing water in his helmet, all spacewalks by the agency were halted.
After a seven-hour spacewalk, Maurer discovered a thin layer of moisture in his helmet. NASA deemed the event a “close call”, and Maurer quickly removed the helmet. Water samples, suit hardware, and the spacesuit were also returned to Earth for further investigation. NASA officials determined that the suit had not suffered any hardware failures.
NASA’s blog update stated that the cause of the water in the helmet was probably due to “integrated system performance” where many variables, such as crew exertion or crew cooling settings, led to the creation of larger-than-usual amounts of condensation within the system.
“Based on these findings, the team updated operational procedures and designed new mitigation hardware to reduce water accumulation in integrated performance. It also absorbs any water that may appear. To ensure crew safety, these measures will contain any liquids in the helmet.
After concluding their October review, NASA officials gave the “go” to spacewalks being resumed.
Dina Contella (operations integration manager, International Space Station Program) said that the investigation team had developed methods to control the temperature in the suit and added absorption bands to the helmet.
The orange thin pieces were placed in various parts of the helmet. This helmet has been tested by astronauts at the space station.
“We have taken many different models and the crew tried to inject water in the helmet at the same time that would make it the worst case. Contella stated that the pads proved to be very effective.
Tuesday’s spacewalk enabled the crew to test new pads outside the space station before they proceed with more complicated solar array installation spacewalks in the coming weeks.
A Russian spacewalk will take place simultaneously on Thursday. Dmitri Peterlin and Sergey Prokopyev, both Cosmonauts, will start their walk at 9 AM. ET to begin work on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory unit. During their seven-hour spacewalk, they will make a radiator to transfer from the Rassvet module into Nauka. The live stream will be available on NASA’s website.